Foot structure has been implicated as a risk factor of numerous overuse injuries, however, the mechanism linking foot structure and the development of soft-tissue overuse injuries are not well understood. The aim of this study was to identify factors that could predict foot function during walking.
A total of eleven variables (including measures of foot structure, anthropometry and spatiotemporal gait characteristics) were investigated for their predictive ability on identifying kinematic, kinetic and energetic components of the foot. Three-dimensional motion capture and force data were collected at preferred walking speed on an instrumented treadmill. Mechanical measures were subsequently assessed using a custom multi-segment foot model in Opensim. Factors with significant univariate associations were entered into multiple linear regression models to identify a group of factors independently associated with the mechanical measures.
Although no model could be created for any of the kinematic measures analysed, approximately 46% and 37% of the variance in the kinetic and energetic measures were associated with three or two factors respectively. Arch-height ratio, foot length and step width were associated with peak subtalar joint (STJ) moment, while greater STJ negative work was correlated to a low arch-height ratio and greater foot mobility.
The models presented in this study suggest that the soft-tissue structures of a flat-arched, mobile foot are at a greater risk of injury as they have greater requirements to absorb energy and generate larger forces. However, as these associations are only moderate, other measures may also have an influence.